OK. Let’s start with the important bit. I want him to stay. I hope he signs the contract offered and we can all move forwards as a happy family. And I wish Maja well in whatever he chooses. If it’s to stay with us, great. If it’s to play occasionally in the championship for a few quid extra, OK. If it’s to move to a Premier league academy for the next three years and associated anonymity, good luck to him.
But if he doesn’t stay? Well, I’ve had worse news.
If we only take one lesson from the Short/Bain era it should be that, to be a success on the pitch, we need to be a success off it and that means keeping players in contract (if we want them) and if they don’t want to stay, getting organised early enough that we’re not all sitting at ten to midnight on the 31st trying to sign a Middlesbrough reserve as our only recognised striker.
We’ve moved quickly and efficiently to deal with the potential Gooch and Maja contract position. And one has said yes and one has, it appears, said no.
‘They should have offered more’ is the standard response. Really? Remember we’re going to make a loss this year. And probably next year, certainly if we don’t get promoted. Throwing money at players hasn’t worked in the past. Let’s say we do change the wage structure to get him to sign. Next on the list is Honeyman. Or Watmore. Or the other twenty or so players. An extra grand a week for every player is a million pounds a year which would threaten our financial fair play obligations and, in the relatively short term, would affect the club’s ability to trade. So, we trust the board to make a fair offer. If it’s rejected, that’s the end of it. We look to get as much as we can for him and sign someone else.
And I’m not trying to suggest that’s easy. Far from it but we have the team in place to act. Coton and Hill have been working for months on the future. It’s not like previous administrations where the club would, today, think of what to do next.
And what are we actually losing? And, more importantly, what do we need?
It’s only five months ago that we were being linked with any number of strikers because all we had was an untested 19 year old. Now people are crying over their sandwiches at news he might be off. What if we’d got Taylor in the summer? Maja would be an impact sub and nothing more.
For what it’s worth, I think Maja will go on to be a great player. He is improving almost every week and, if he keeps working hard, there’s nothing to suggest he won’t be a success. But he’s nowhere near the finished article and, in my opinion, he’s not what we need in this division.
He has scored fourteen goals placing him joint second in the league one chart but how many would Marquis, Eaves or Henderson have scored in our team with the back up of Gooch, McGeady, Power etc?
As a team, we have struggled to keep the ball from coming back at us, struggled to link up play, struggled to hold on to the ball having taken a lead and struggled to score as many goals as some of our possession percentages would predict we should have.
If I could swap Maja for Eaves or Norwood, I’d be more than happy. I think, at this point of our journey, they’d be more beneficial. Not to mention the likely financial benefits of selling Maja and replacing him with those listed.
In three or four years in the premier league, I’d take Maja hands down but, today, I’d rather have some more physical presence, more holding the ball up, giving the defence a break and giving the midfield a chance to get into attacking positions.
Truth be told, I hope he stays AND we sign one of those players but we need to be realistic!
What I’m saying is there are a lot of reasons that we should look at Maja’s agent’s idiocy and greed (allegedly) as an opportunity not a threat and as signs of massively improved management of the club. It’s the fear of what happens next that has us as panicked as we are. I trust the club to keep us moving in the right direction, with or without Maja.
And until he goes, or signs, I’ll keep cheering him on. I’ll be frustrated when he shows his inexperience and I’ll be delighted when he shows what he’s learned. But whether it’s his goals or someone else’s that take us back to the Championship, I’ll not lose much sleep.